On the bright side, at least we'll never have to endure another Jay Nixon State of the State speech.
It wasn't like we were expecting oratorical greatness from Governor Jay Nixon's final State of the State speech — but yeeeesh.
At best, the Wednesday night speech managed to highlight Nixon's past accomplishments and repeat his calls for ethics reform in the legislature and expanded protections for LGBT Missourians. But the outgoing Democratic governor made no mention of his own Ferguson Commission or its report, instead devoting a measly 70 words to municipal court reform measures, better police training standards and an updated use of force statute.
By comparison, Nixon devoted more real estate (88 words) to pushing for regulations on the daily fantasy sports industry — whose main actors, FanDual and DraftKings, have been banned in multiple states after to waves of lawsuits and allegations of shady dealings.
Granted, it's easy to dismiss any Nixon speech as little more than soft-pedaled mumble soup, but it should be genuinely shocking that he left out the Ferguson Commission. After taking harsh criticism for his slow response to the protests, Nixon created the Ferguson Commission in 2014 and spent much of 2015 reassuring its members that their work would be taken seriously.
For all his awkwardness as a public speaker, Nixon's other speeches about the Ferguson Commission were as eloquent and memorable as any he's delivered in his eight years in office. In October 2014, when he announced the Commission's formation, Nixon called it "a defining moment that will determine whether this place will be known as a region marred by racial division and unrest, or a region that pulled together to rise above and heal." And when the Commission released its final report in September of last year, Nixon sounded downright Washingtonian, stating "We are engaged in nothing less than the unfinished work of perfecting our democracy to comport with the principles on which it was founded."
Where was that Jay Nixon during the State of the State speech? Does he think the success or failure of the Ferguson Commission won't factor into his legacy as a governor? We tried asking him, but our emails to the governor's office yesterday afternoon have yet to receive a response.
Even if Nixon ultimately washes his hands of the Ferguson Commission, others are carrying the torch. In an interview earlier this week on KMOX, the Commission's co-chair, Starsky Wilson, pointed out that the Commission's recommendations directly inspired nearly a dozen bills in the legislature, proposals that include strengthening the state's use-of-force laws and appointing independent special prosecutors to handle police shooting cases.
"Someone who says it hasn’t made that much of a difference, really hasn’t paid that much attention over the course of the last year," Wilson said.
Nixon has been paying attention, or at least that's what he's been saying. But after totally skipping the issue in his State of the State speech, Nixon will have to do more than talk if he wants the Ferguson Commission to occupy a prominent place in his legacy.